Zimbabwe COVID-19 Lockdown Monitoring Report 15 to 16 July 2020 – Days 108 to 109

This report covers two days, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 July 2020 which marked days 108 and 109 of the national lockdown declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and has been in place since 30 March 2020 respectively. By Thursday 16 July 2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases had increased to one thousand three hundred and sixty-two (1362). Of concern are the increasing numbers of local transmissions which now account for six hundred and six cases. The number of cumulative tests done stood at ninety-three thousand two hundred and forty-eighty (97 508). The death toll increased to twenty-three (23).

Information contained in this report is derived from the following Forum Members:

  • Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
  • Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
  • Counselling Services Unit (CSU)
  • Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)

President Mnangagwa has hinted on the introduction of more stringent COVID-19 measures, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo. Speaking at State House in Harare, the President expressed concern that the stringent measures would worsen the country’s economic challenges and called on Zimbabweans to brace up for more suffering. This follows the increasing number of confirmed cases which have risen to over 1000 cases. Under the new measures, special attention will be given to hotspots and clusters of infections to contain outbreaks quickly and early.

Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro has advised that a high-volume PCR machine with a capacity to conduct about 1 200 diagnostic tests a day has been moved to Beitbridge, with a second sent to Gwanda. The move was in line with the government’s plan to decentralise diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and improve efficiency, particularly in the province which house the busiest entry point being used by returnees, Beitbridge. The redeployment of the machines should allow returnees to be quickly tested, and remove the temptation to abscond when long delays in testing kept them in their quarantine centres.

The Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) has turned Chinhoyi Training Centre as one of its examination centres despite the facilities having been used as a COVID-19 quarantine centre. Some students indicated that they fear they would contract COVID-19 as the arrangement exposes them to the pandemic since 23 returnees were still housed at the centre.

THE COVID-19 task force in Kwekwe District has embarked on a testing exercise for all frontline workers, including journalists. In an interview, Kwekwe District Development Co-ordinator, Mr Fortune Mpungu, said the task force engaged Medical Air Rescue Services (MARS), to conduct tests for all the frontline workers. The team is set to move around Kwekwe to test more frontline workers.

Stakeholders in the education sector have suggested that the 2020 academic year be abandoned. The call was in response to the Cabinet’s decision to defer the opening of schools which had been set for 28 July 2020. The Zimbabwe National Teachers Union (Zinatu) Chief Executive Officer Mr Emmanuel Nyawo and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe also agreed with the sentiments that the reopening of schools be postponed to 2021.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity Mr Nick Mangwana reported that 8 returnees absconded from Mushagashe Quarantine Centre. Mr Mangwana went on to publish the names of the escaped returnees.

Attacks on journalists
Human rights journalist Tapiwa Zivira was assaulted by 6 municipal police officers and 2 ZRP officers in Harare whilst he was filming the assault of a truck driver by police officers despite producing his media accreditation card. It was reported that the municipal police and ZRP police officers assaulted Zivira with clenched fists and open palms before dragging him into a municipality vehicle. It was further reported that one of the law enforcement officers wrestled his phone from his hands in an attempt to delete his video footage. He was later released though he sustained bruises as a result of the assault. Harare Municipal police officers are part of those enforcing the COVID-19 national lockdown regulations.

Police officers arrested pro-democracy campaigner Namatai Kwekweza, Youngerston Matete and Prince Gora and charged them with participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry. It was reported that the trio staged a protest outside the Parliament Building against proposed amendments to the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This is the second time in less than one month that Kwekweza has been arrested by ZRP members after she was apprehended on Friday 19 June 2020 and charged with contravening section 37(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The trio is yet to have their day in court.

Police officers arrested MDC Alliance Youth Chairperson, Sekai Marashe ahead of the planned July 31 protests. It is alleged that Marashe is yet to be formally charged.  However, she was interrogated on whether she was mobilising youths to participate in the 31 July protests. Marashe is detained at Kwekwe Central Police Station.

Summary of violations
The table below summarises human rights violations documented by the Forum Secretariat and Forum Members from 30 March to 12 July 2020.

Nature of ViolationNumber of VictimsLocation
Assault279Harare, Zvishavane, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Wedza, Chinhoyi, Zaka, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Nembudziya, Chiredzi, Marondera, Mutoko, Chivi, Bikita, Zvishavane, Mvurwi, Mutare, Marondera, Beitbridge, Domboshava, Wengezi
Attack on Journalists22Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Harare, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Beitbridge
Arrests501Masvingo, Gokwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Hwange, Harare, Magunje, Lupane, Norton, Bikita, Mutasa, Chitungwiza, Nkayi, Makoni, Chipinge, Beitbridge, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Mwenezi, Guruve, Hwange, Murwi, Kwekwe, Chinhoyi
Gunshots2Chitungwiza, Bulawayo

 As the President plans to reintroduce strict measures to save the lives of citizens during the time of the pandemic, the Forum urges the government to also put in place measured approaches to limit the suffering of citizens.   Notably, the provision of safe, clean and adequate water, capacitation of medical facilities and medical health care workers, provision of social and financial assistance to vulnerable communities and a human rights-based approach to enforcement should also be a priority for the government.   Of particular concern are the rising numbers of nurses who are being infected by the epidemic in the line of duty.  The Minister of Health should take measures to protect the health care workers and to support their families.

Further, the Forum calls upon the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner-General to respect the judgment of the High Court issued in the case of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) v the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritageand Others directing that journalists should be allowed to conduct their work unhindered during the pandemic. The continued assaults on journalists are in contempt of an existing court order. 

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)

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